With the off-season underway, the Foxboro Blog crew will be sitting down at the round table and hashing out some of the critical issues facing the Patriots this spring and summer. We'll begin this series of round tables with some more light-hearted discussion about the Pro Bowl. Here's today's topic...
The Patriots had six players (Brady, Mankins, Wilfork, Merriweather, Mayo, and McCourty) named to the Pro-Bowl, the most of any team in the league. There were rumblings in the media that this was too many. Who do you think definitely deserved to make the team, and which selections may have been questionable?
Rick: The guys who definitely deserve to make the team were Brady, Wilfork, Mayo, and Devin McCourty who is IMO the defensive rookie of the year in the NFL considering that the cornerback position would be a nightmare without him. Meriweather did not deserve to make the team because he had a very off year and at times Belichick would bench him for dumb plays like running into James Sanders on the James Jones TD against the Packers and then the illegal hit against Todd Heap. He needs a reality check this offseason. Logan Mankins had a good HALF A YEAR, but I feel you have to play at least 3/4 of the season to be Pro Bowl eligible.
Jason: When a team goes 14-2, you could make an argument that six selections might not be enough. Nobody in their right mind could argue with Brady (going to win the league MVP), Wilfork (one of the most dominant NTs in the game), Mayo (led the league in tackles) or McCourty (tied for 2nd in INTs). The Mankins selection could be subject to debate since he missed half the season, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better interior offensive linemen who was snubbed. On the other hand, Brandon Meriweather really had no business making a Pro Bowl roster. Twenty-one safeties had more tackles in the AFC, and his 3 INTs were nothing special. While he had a good year in 2009, he wasn't even the best safety on his own team in 2010 as Patrick Chung soundly outplayed him.
Derek: Jason made a good point that the Patriots league-leading record certainly justifies their league-leading amount of Pro Bowl selections. I think the reason that people took issue with the selections is that four of those six selections went to defensive players and the Patriots' D was far from impressive this year. When you look at it more closely though, Wilfork, Mayo, and McCourty were each the standout player keeping his tier of the defense afloat. The Patriots' sub-par defense had nothing to do with those three players and was more a result of their inexperienced teammates, as well as some key injuries.
Meriweather, on the other hand, is a complete enigma. His issues this year have already been detailed, so I'll refrain from repeating them. I think his selection is simply a matter of name recognition on the part of the fans. The same can probably be said for Mankins, who played well down the stretch, but held out for a good chunk of the season.
All in all, the Pats had four "definites" and two "maybes" in my book. I just wouldn't have made Meriweather one of my "maybes".
Stephen: With a 14-2 record, it should come as no surprise that the Patriots had the second-highest number of Pro Bowl selections. With an MVP-caliber season, Brady was a lock. Wilfork showed his versatility and toughness by playing all over the line and was the MVP of the defense. Even though he was only a rookie, McCourty excelled in all areas as a pass defender (7 interceptions) and a run-supporter (82 tackles).